The year started in Tiger Stadium and Dwight Evans swung at the first pitch of the season, hitting it out of the park. Though Detroit won the game, 6-5, that was still a good way to try to break out of the 81-81 record of 1985.
In Fenway Park, 23 days later, Roger Clemens went to 4-0 on the still very young season, striking out 20 Seattle Mariners batters, setting a new major-league record for Ks in a game. The Red Sox won, 3-1 win, thanks to a three-run homer by Evans in the seventh inning. The Red Sox reached first place for good on May 14, and wouldn’t let go for the rest of the year. Clemens kept winning and winning, and by June 27 he was 14-0, with only one non-decision. With that 14th win, the Red Sox were in first place by six games
Clemens even threw three no-hit innings and won the All-Star Game in Houston, the only Red Sox pitcher to ever win the game. Six Sox have born defeats.
Clemens finished the season 24-4, with a 2.48 earned run average. Hurst’s 13-8 (2.99) was the second-best, with Oil Can third, at 16-10 (3.78). The Red Sox clinched the American League East Division on September 28 (a 12-3 win for Oil Can Boyd over Toronto). In the celebration that followed, a mounted officer let Clemens climb on the back of a police horse and he rode around the Fenway Park outfield whooping it up.
There was offense, too. One doesn’t win a division, or a pennant, on pitching alone. There was a trade of the sort one would be unlikely to see any more: at the end of March, the Red Sox and Yankees swapped DHs, with Mike Easler going to New York and Don Baylor coming to Boston. Baylor’s 31 homers led the Red Sox, though his 94 RBIs only placed him fourth. The two RBI leaders were Jim Rice with 110 RBIs and Bill Buckner with 102.
Dwight Evans (second in homers, with 26) drove in 97 runs. Wade Boggs hit .357 and won the batting crown for the second year in a row.
There was also a pretty one-sided trade with Seattle on August 19 brought Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to Boston.
John McNamara was named Manager of the Year for bringing the Red Sox from their 81-81 fifth-place in 1985 to the top of the league in 1986 (95-55, 5 ½ games ahead of second-place New York). Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award in a unanimous vote – and also won 19 of 28 first-place votes, earning the 1986 Most Valuable Player Award, too.
The Red Sox went on to the postseason.By Bill Nowlin
- Bill Buckner, Bruce Hurst, Cy Young Award, Dave Henderson, Dave Stapleton, Don Baylor, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, John McNamara, Mike Easler, Oil Can Boyd, Roger Clemens, Spike Owen